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Image Credit: Warko, 2013, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
What could dry up revenue streams around the world? The answer is simpler than it seems.
It’s water – vital for life itself. In our home state of California, we are no stranger to water scarcity. Governor Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January 2014, preceding the four driest years in recorded California history. It was only in 2017 that Brown declared an end to the drought-fueled state of emergency, after shocking losses to the state economy. The California economy as a whole saw $3.8b losses over this time period, with the agricultural industries particularly hard hit. The tech industry was heavily impacted too. California’s 800 water-cooled data centers were squeezed by rising water prices, putting Silicon Valley’s data in jeopardy.
In response, Vantage Data Centers of Santa Clara, California found a creative solution to their water needs. During the 2011-2017 California drought, the company installed air handling units to lessen their dependence on water-cooled systems.
On a larger scale, as the cleantech industry continues to look for affordable, scalable solutions, the concept of “fog capture” has gained traction across the US well as across the globe, where may regions experience an abundance of fog. Fog capture relies on no mechanical parts, requires no electricity, and is relatively inexpensive. The process relies on the capillarity of liquid water. A MOF (metal organic framework) mesh frame catches fog droplets in the air, which are then gravity-fed into a collection chamber below.
Throughout the world, there are already early adopters of the technology. Startup Infinite Cooling is already taking advantage of this underutilized principal by harvesting water from power plants, which are some of the biggest water-users in industry. Here in the US, USGS is further developing the technology. Meanwhile, in Southwestern Morocco, fog collection has changed the lives of women and girls.
Water scarcity will be the next frontier of climate management throughout the world. In areas such as North Africa and the Middle East, water scarcity is already a pressing issue. Even beyond that, the cost benefits of fog capture are staggering. According to Infinite Cooling’s business data, a 600MV energy system can accrue $1M in annual savings through fog capture.
We San Franciscans certainly experience fog on a regular basis, in fact “Carl” the fog frequently cloaks our neighborhoods in a cloud of moist air, disappointing tourists who are unaware of our micro climates. Though San Francisco is one of the foggiest US cities, the airborne moisture you can find in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Boston and New York is also quite ample. We can’t help but wonder if these cities may one day confront water scarcity with fog capture.
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